photo credit: Rex
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at her victory party in the Bronx on Tuesday night.David Dee Delgado for The New York Times
Representative Joseph Crowley of New York, once seen as a possible successor to Nancy Pelosi as Democratic leader of the House, suffered a shocking primary defeat on Tuesday, the most significant loss for a Democratic incumbent in more than a decade, and one that will reverberate across the party and the country.
Mr. Crowley was defeated by a 28-year-old political newcomer, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a former organizer for Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, who had declared it was time for generational, racial and ideological change.
The last time Mr. Crowley, 56, even had a primary challenger, in 2004, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was not old enough to vote.
Mr. Crowley, the No. 4 Democrat in the House, had drastically outspent his lesser-known rival to no avail, as Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign was lifted by an aggressive social media presence and fueled by attention from national progressives hoping to flex their muscle in a race against a potential future speaker.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez had used Mr. Crowley’s role in the leadership, and the fact that he was the head of the local Democratic Party machine, against him in her bid to upend the existing political class. She will face Anthony Pappas, the Republican candidate, in the November general election.
Mr. Crowley is the first House Democrat in the nation to lose a primary in 2018. His loss is most significant for a congressional incumbent since Eric Cantor, then the No. 2 Republican in the House, was defeated in 2014 to a Tea Party activist, David Brat.
Like that contest, the Crowley defeat is expected to shake up Congress, where Mr. Crowley was seen as a top contender to replace Ms. Pelosi, if she stepped aside after the midterms.
The race was not close. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez had more than 57 percent of the vote, with almost all precincts reporting.
“It’s surreal,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said in a live television interview as the votes were being tallied.
By then, no television showed results at what was supposed to have been Mr. Crowley’s victory party.
Mr. Crowley appeared rattled when he spoke. “I know you’re all trying your best to make me cry, but it’s not going to happen,” he told supporters.
The guitar-strumming incumbent later played Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” and dedicated it to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez.
Representative Joseph Crowley of New York during a news conference on Capitol Hill this month. Mr. Crowley lost the Democratic primary to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 28, a political newcomer from the Bronx who worked as an organizer for Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign.Al Drago for The New York Times
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is a native of the Bronx and a Latina in a Queens and Bronx district that is majority-minority, a fact she emphasized repeatedly on the trail against Mr. Crowley, who is white. In hindsight, the seat represented perhaps a perfect brew for an upset: a rusty incumbent, a charismatic challenger and a liberal district that gave Mr. Sanders more than 41 percent of the vote against Hillary Clinton.
“Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said at the start of a biographical video that went viral last month and was viewed more than half-a-million times.
She ran as a woman, as a young person, as a working-class champion, as an unabashed liberal and as a person of color. She piled up endorsements from national progressive groups in recent weeks and from Cynthia Nixon, who is running her own insurgent bid for governor against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Ms. Nixon attended the Ocasio-Cortez victory party.
“What I see is that the Democratic Party takes working class communities for granted, they take people of color for granted and they just assume that ….